- 25 Sep 20
40 years ago today, John Bonham, often regarded as one of the most influential drummers in the history of rock, passed away. To mark his anniversary, we're revisiting some of Bonzo's most iconic moments behind the kit.
'Fool In The Rain'
Here Bonham put on his best shuffling shoes. The song has a bright feel to it with an uptempo beat. Bonham took influence from another drumming legend, Bernard 'Pretty' Purdie. He is best known for his groove, 'The Purdie Shuffle' and many drummers have adopted their own versions of this beat. Bonham shows his groove credentials and inventiveness by taking the core basics of the Purdie Shuffle to make it work in a Led Zeppelin context. Pay close attention to the ghost notes on the snare drum during the verses and precise bass drum hits in time with the piano chords.
'Rock and Roll'
Perhaps Zeppelin's best known track apart from 'Stairway to Heaven'. 'Rock and Roll' came to be in a recording session in Page's Headley Grange in Hampshire, England. Bonham began playing the intro in a triplet pattern and Page jammed what would eventually become the song's main guitar riff over it. It was the opening track for concert set lists from 1972 to 1975 and became an encore song in the band's later years. Bonham's distinctive hard hitting and deep sounding bass hits keep the song powering through verses and choruses. The intro has become of the most well known in drumming and the track comes complete with a solo consisting of triplets across all toms and snare to end it out.
It seems Bonham had a talent for creating unique sounding intros. He does it again here with the reggae influenced 'D'yer Mak'er'. This was the band's attempt at combining the emerging sounds of reggae and a beat Bonham had created affer being influenced from a 1950's Ben E. King doo wop song, 'Poor Little Fool'. What resulted was Bonham and John Paul Jones creating a string rhythm section with a beat that sat perfectly with accompanying instrumentation.
'Good Times Bad Times'
Bonham may well have been a pocket watch in another life. He never lost time with the music and was well able to play appropriately for whatever his band mates threw at him. While it may sound as though Bonham was using two kick drums to play this track, he wasn't. He trained his right foot to play at the speed needed in the verses, maintaining time and power in the groove.
The pinnacle of Bonzo's power and a jewel in the crown of drumming. 'Moby Dick' began life in the recording studio. Page would often catch snippets of Bonham jamming behind the kit. Eventually the full track emerged in the structure of a twelve bar blues riff played by Page and Jones at the beginning and end of the track. Bonham's snare fill intro starts it off before his two band mates join in with the riff. In the middle of the track Bonham plays a rehearsed solo on the studio recording which appeared both as a single and on Led Zeppelin II. Bonham's live solos consisted of soft and loud dynamics, stick and hand played sections and could easily last around 25 minutes. Page, Jones and Plant would leave stage for the duration of the solos leaving Bonham alone in the spotlight. The rest of the band returned to the stage in time for Bonham to play the same snare fill from the opening and end the song. This is a live version of 'Moby Dick' recorded at London's Royal Albert Hall on January 9, 1970.